Sunday 15 December 2013

British Drawings: 1600 to the Present Day

There are some beautiful drawings on show at The Victoria and Albert Museum in a temporary display in Room 90. The exhibition British Drawings: 1600 to the Present Day covers 400 years of drawing practice and includes works by Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Cozens, Rossetti, Spencer and Freud alongside 17th and 19th century drawing manuals and the sketchbooks of John Constable, George Romney and John Flaxam.

Isaac Fuller, Self-portrait (1670)
Isaac Fuller (1606/1620?-1672) studied in France, and became a portraitist and history painter. According to the first historian of British art, Baynbrigg Buckeridge, Fuller had 'a great genius for drawing'. This particular work relates to two similar self-portrait oil paintings, one in the National Portrait Gallery (London) and the other in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It was probably made either as a preparatory drawing for a print, or perhaps as a work of art in its own right.

Frederic Leighton, Study of a Lemon Blossom, Capri (1859)
Frederic Leighton was one of the most celebrated draughtsmen of the Victorian era. As a young man he was influenced by John Ruskin’s advice to ‘go to Nature in all singleness of heart… rejecting nothing and selecting nothing’. Leighton trained in Frankfurt under Eduard von Steinle, a member of the ‘Nazarene’ group of artists which rejected conventional academic art as superficial. Steinle taught Leighton the importance of crisp outline.

Edwin Landseer, Drawing of an écorché greyhound (1817-21)
Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) was one of the most phenomenally successful artists of the Victorian era. His profound understanding of animal anatomy, upon which he built his career, was achieved through rigorous observation of écorché (skinned) specimens. In this he was encouraged by the artist Benjamin Robert Haydon, who later claimed that Landseer had 'dissected animals under my eye, copied my anatomical drawings, and carried my principles of study into animal painting'. Landseer attended classes in anatomy run by the famous surgeon Sir Charles Bell from his premises in Soho, London. This drawing is one of a group of eight anatomical studies of dogs and cats in the V&A which Landseer made between 1817 and 1821, when he was still in his teens.

Samuel Palmer, Drawing (1824) 
Samuel Palmer was one of the most unconventional and experimental draughtsman of his generation. Drawings and inscriptions in a sketchbook he began in the summer of 1824 at the age of 19 document his intense, visionary approach to nature as he walked in the fields and woods of south east London, near to where he was born.

John Constable, Sketchbook

The exhibition continues until 13 April 2014

Also on in London: 
Emilio Greco at The Estorick Collection and Daumier at The Royal Academy of Art